tv Washington Week PBS July 28, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
gwen: romney abroad. obama at home. voter i.d. and who makes the money for the campaign they're raising? tonight on "washington week." this was supposed to be foreign policy week. . >> in dealings with other nations he has given trust where it was not earned, insult where it was not deserved, and apology where it is not due. >> as many of you know, i have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with israel across the whole spectrum of security issues. gwen: but mitt romney's big trip abroad got off to an inauspicious start in preolympics london.
>> mitt romney wants to know whether or not we're ready. are we ready? [cheers and applause] >> yes, we are. gwen: do romney's missteps matter? on the message front, the candidates sparred over the president's commitment to business. >> president obama attacks success and we will change that. >> they're taking my words out of context and are flat-out wrong. gwen: a big fight brews over who gets the vote. >> if i don't get the proper birthday certificate and i.d., i won't be able to vote. >> it should be insults to my american that you might be disenfranchised because you don't have the ability to get a photo i.d. gwen: we've learned more about the campaign money fueling these debates. covering it this week, dan balz of "the washington post," laura meckler of the wall street
journal. robert barnes of "the washington post" and jeanne cummings of bloomberg news. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill, produced in association with washington journal. funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> it's powerful and connects the global economy to your living room. cleaner air to stronger markets. factory floors to less crowded roads it. today's progress is tomorrow's promise. norfolk southern, one line, infinite possibilities. >> we know why we're here. to connect our forces to what they need when they need it.
>> to help troops see danger before it sees them. >> to answer the call of the brave and bring them safely home. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to support and protect all who serve. >> that's why we're here. >> corporate funding is also provided by prudential financial. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation. the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. well, it all seems simple enough, a presidential candidate makes a quick trip abroad and gets his picture
taken by a few leaders and brandishes his credentials. but no it took a passing criticism of london's readiness for the olympic games to spark this line in an opinion column in "the telegraph" newspaper. and mitt romney is the only politician could start a trip being utterly void of charm and offensive. the britts are harsh. if you're mitt romney, you're happy to get on to the next stop. what happened there, dan? >> a very rough start on this trip. as he was flying over there was a story in one of the british papers quoting an unnamed advisor saying president obama didn't understand the anglo-saxon heritage and the relationship between u.s. and the britains. which they deny there is any advisor who did it but it started to set a tone and he did an interview with brian williams in which he made the comments about the olympics and by the next day he was called out by the prime minister, david cameron, who basically said, you know, it's sometimes
difficult to set up the games in a big city. it's a lot easier when you do it in the middle of nowhere which seemed to be a reference to salt lake city in 2002. gwen: and insulting the governor of utah at the same time. >> the mayor of london and cameron are conservative party members and used him as a punch line. the british press was very, very tough on them which is the way the british press is. so this was supposed to be the easy part of the trip. he's going to three countries. london was supposed to be the easy part and instead it turned out very, very badly. gwen: israel and poland the other two countries. what did he think he was doing here? did he think he was just grinning and showing up as a former olympic chief and moving on? >> i think there were a couple of things. one is they set fairly low expectations about this. they did a briefing before he left and they said the governor is going on this trip to listen and learn, not to make pronouncements, not to attack
the president. and the second thing they clearly wanted was the photo-ops which would show him with the foreign leaders and would suggest he crosses the threshold of being commander in chief. and the third part was by being at the olympics, a way to draw attention to the 2002 olympics that he led and turned around and is a success story in his resume. in a variety of ways, it has not played out the way they had hoped or expected. >> if anything, it's the worst possible thing that could have happened, that he doesn't look like a statesman. the reference now to the olympics in salt lake is a derogatory one. how are they going to manage the message going forward? in israel he's to give a speech, and yet he doesn't want to criticize the president or talk too much policy. >> it's a really interesting question. if you go on a trip like this, you have to go with a purpose
that's beyond simply meeting foreign leaders. you have to have something you're prepared to say. he set constraints ohimself by saying he would not criticize the president. well, that's understandable. you don't do that when you're abroad. but also by saying i'm not here to talk about my foreign policy views. the question is, what did he think he was going to talk about? and into that vacuum has come all this other stuff. he can go to israel where he has sharply criticized the president on u.s. israeli policy but how he's going to do that, we don't know at this point. >> the message from the obama campaign about mitt romney and foreign policy is he's long on criticism and short on details of what he would do. he doesn't lay out how his policies on iran would be different on what the obama administration has done and even on israel what exactly he'd change. is there any truth to that and how do you think -- does the romney campaign have to respond to that? maybe not this week but at some point? >> they do have to respond to that and he gave a speech at reno at the v.f.w. before he
left. gwen: a tough speech. >> probably the toughest speech he's given about the president. and certainly in many ways the most complete he's done on foreign policy. and he ticked off a series of criticisms different places around the globe. but you're right, he has not filled out the details of that's. he -- of those. he's not been explicit how his policy would differ with the president's with regard to israel. there's no question that with the president the relationship has been strained with israel. but beyond saying i'ding be a better friend, he's not talked about it. he didn't say a lot about iran but did saeed say zero enrichment for the iranians which goes beyond what the president has been willing to accept. there's a lot that has to be filled in and doesn't look like on this trip he's prepared to do it. >> does he feel like he needs to lay that out before the election or does he want to keep the message just on the economy and hope that people aren't as interested in those questions? >> they fundamentally believe that this race will turn on the
economy, bob. and therefore, i think they don't think they have to do a lot on this. but this was a week in which they were going to kind of check the box on foreign policy and they've had trouble doing that, at least in the initial stage. he does have israel, he does have poland and he has opportunities to recover. but the initial impressions were not good. >> gwen: and no theoretical votes in europe. >> and money to be raised there and in israel. gwen: good point. let's talk about the dustup. the pre-olympic dustup was romney's off-message moment but for president obama was fallout from comments he made weeks ago about small business. >> if you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. there was a great teacher somewhere in your life. >> yeah! >> somebody helped to create this unbelievable american system that we had that allowed you to thrive. somebody invested in roads and bridges. if you've got a business, you
didn't build that. somebody else made that happen. gwen: you didn't build that. romney's forces seized on the president's comments in references that he said he is anti-business. >> there are people who are trying to attack success and trying to attack our success. that's not going to be successful. when you attack success, you have less of it and that's what we've seen in our economy the last few years. gwen: how did this turn into a thing? >> it's so funny, because when president obama first made those remarks two weeks ago, nobody noticed. none of the reporters there reported it, nobody picked up on it. but over the weekend and into monday, some of the conservative websites and commentators noticed it and started bringing it to their attention and a day later the mitt romney campaign is seized on it and was up with a web ad and signs greeted president obama saying, i built my business and had become in fact, a thing. gwen: we use the word "gaffe" freely but was it really a
gaffe? everything the president had to say there is because you don't see that in the advertising. and he was talking about you didn't build that because you had government help. i wonder if that's just the way these campaigns are rolling out now, their sense of purpose. >> yes and no. it's a gaffe to say he didn't word it well. he didn't word it well at all. because he said, you didn't build that and that's obviously damaging. but there is an underlying difference in the way these campaigns view the role of government. and i think that's the deeper thing that this exposes and that's had a president -- that president obama, the central point he's making is in order for government to succeed you need government and infrastructure and good teachers and to that that map you need more money and he wants to tax the wealthy and all comes into focus. and if you're looking at it from a republican point of view, you're saying no, government is a problem, government gets in the way. we need less regulations and
don't need to focus on it but focus on the private sector doing well. there is an underlying real difference here. gwen: it takes a village. >> well, in addition to whether -- well, there's a question of fairness here because it's hardly in context by the time it shows up in the romney material. and i mean, does obama -- it doesn't seem like obama feed this is kind of information or makes these rhetorical mistakes they can capture like this very often. is it more common than we think? >> i think it is a little bit more common. he's not using the teleprompter so much anymore on the campaign and they're sort of trying to wean him off of that and it's starting to show. you saw him at the press conference several weeks ago where he said the private sector is doing fine. that was another thing that kind of became a thing for a while. gwen: for years ago he talked about clinging to guns. >> i think when he's not giving a prepared speech he sometimes does sort of put it wrong and
it's been interesting in the days since i've been on the campaign trail with him since last week and he defended himself, finally the obama campaign realized they needed to respond to this and it was becoming damaging and now he goes out of his way to talk about the wonderful hard work of small business people and of course they get all the credit for everything that they do. you know, government has a role and government is supporting them. >> laura, to what extent -- there's clearly a difference of vision to how the economy operates. but to what extent does this play into the perception of the president that he actually is kind of disdainful of small business people working -- you know, people who build businesses? romney talks about that as somebody that's been in the community and celebrates them. and when the president says something like this, does it speak to a larger problem that he may have? >> i think it does. and i think that's why this is powerful and why something like this is more powerful than the private sector is doing fine.
nobody really thinks he thinks everything is fine. but this does play into the perception that's out there that he really doesn't value, you know, entrepreneurs or small business in the same way that republicans do. whether it's true or not is one question, but i think the perception is very widespread, certainly among conservatives and republicans in general. and i think that that's why this has gained some traction and why barack obama wouldn't have put an ad out like that if he didn't think it was doing damage. gwen: on both side guilty of lack of context? >> oh, yeah. gwen: is it all a fair game? >> it's amazing. the obama campaign went after mitt romney when he said i like to fire people. what he was really saying is i like -- if i have an insurance company that's not doing a good job, i like to be able to get rid of them but they didn't present the full context. in some ways that's par for the course in modern campaigns. gwen: let's go to the next piece of what was happening.
one part of the week was happening in front of cameras and the other part was behind the camera. and what is happening behind the scenes tells you more of what is really going on instead of the public gaffe. in pennsylvania a tough law requires you to show government issued i.d. at the polls. they call rules like this poll taxes. the proponents say it's a personally -- perfectly reasonable requirement and whoever wins this fight might win the election. how did pennsylvania background zero in this fight? >> because i think it's the biggest swing state that has one of these laws. so it's important in the election that's quite strong. a lot of states have these. most states have some sort of requirement of i.d., 10 states, pennsylvania being one of them, has a tougher law you were talking about in which you have to show a specific kind of voter i.d. now, most of us i think we show i.d. for everything all the time now. but a surprising number of
people don't have it. mostly the poor, the elderly have trouble with this sometimes. and so when pennsylvania did its law, for instance, the first estimate was about 90,000 people in pennsylvania voters would lack this kind of voter photo identification. but instead when they ran the voter rolls plus the department of transportation rolls, they found about 758,000 people did not. it's a surprising number. >> and does it break along partisan lines, if you're talking poor and old, you might be talking democrat and republican. >> you might a little. but certainly the parties think that these more restrictive laws help the republicans. republican legislatures have passed them wherever they've happened for the most part. democrats have been opposed to them because the groups that
are hurt are usually those in urban areas or minorities sometimes. >> bob, one of the rationales for these laws, according to the proponents, is to eliminate voter fraud. what's the evidence on that? >> there's really very little evidence of the kind of voter fraud these laws would take care of. impersonation, basically. and of course there are criminal penalties for doing that. but pennsylvania says that you don't really need to show that. in fact, pennsylvania stipulated it didn't have voter i.d. fraud and didn't think there would be much in the coming election with this law. gwen: it was a fight they thought they'd lose. >> they thought they'd lose and didn't think they needed if. government has a right to ensure elections are fair and people that aren't supposed to vote don't vote and dilutes the votes of those that are supposed to vote.
>> are these laws potentially going to change before election day or is there enough time for these to be overturned by courts? are they being challenged across the country? it seems like these are sort of taking hold all over the place. >> yes. well, the states have the responsibility for registering voters. so it's a sort of state by state issue. the obama justice department has objected to voter i.d. laws in texas and in south carolina under the voting rights act in which the states have to prove -- those states have to prove it wouldn't disproportionately impact minorities. but in other places, it's sort of a state by state fight in some places they're in. gwen: what about florida -- i'm thinking of the states taking it on. there's a photo purge going on in florida. is this similar? >> it is similar but florida has a lot of things happening at once. gwen: as always. >> exactly. voter i.d. is not a fight for florida but there are plenty of other fights, like you
mentioned, voter purge and also a sort of cutback in early voting this is something people are concerned about. >> i thought the supreme court had ruled on some of these issues. is it still unsettled law? >> the supreme court in 2008 upheld an indiana voter i.d. law that was very similar to this one. but they upheld it under the federal constitution standard. and these laws now are being challenged under state constitutions in which in some cases they have a much more robust defense of voting. for instance, in pennsylvania, it says that no power may interfere with the right of suffrage. gwen: ok. well, let's stay behind the scenes for a minute because there's no better way of measuring what's at stake in the election by following the money. we all know that, right? not only where it comes from but where it's being spent. bloomberg news has been looking into that. among the things they found, in
three months and in only seven states, get this, $100 million has been spent. the bulk of it on 136,000 obama campaign ads and 60,000 romney campaign ads. that's a lot of money in a few places and in relatively little time. who profits from all that money? jeanne? >> definitely the ad men. they were first on our list. gwen: yeah. >> and television admakers and placers, the people who buy the time. those have always been two of the most lucrative jobs in politics. and what's happened, though, this year, is that the ability for these people to make money is growing exponentially. right now there are five firms that have earned $66 million so far, and we haven't even begun to spend the big money. in all of 2008, these five
firms made $55 million. they're already making more money and we aren't spending the big bucks yet. and it doesn't just apply to the ad men. this is a product of both candidates spending unlimited sums last cycle, only obama did and only in the primary. so now we have both candidates out of the gate and the arrival, of course, of the superpacks. when we looked at outside spending and how it measured up, as of july of 2008, the outside spending was at $73 million. it's almost $200 million now. gwen: all right. already. >> almost three times bigger. even if the people are getting small percentages off of placing ads, say 7% or 5%, the volume alone is going to make millionaires. >> what other types of people are making money on this? the adminmakers are the ones we
know about. gwen: doesn't mean there aren't women out there. >> admakers. >> in addition to the television producers and placers, we looked at lawyers, and the funny thing we found -- and this really was a surprise to us. there are basically five firms in washington that really specialize in this. and we went back to, like, 1996 , and we could not find a race where one of these lawyers was not involved. the candidates changing all the time. the lawyers are always the same. and they're making bundles, and you have the television stations that have all this money coming into them, and this new breed that we have are the high-tech kids and they're really interesting because they -- we've written about them the last couple of cycles. they're the little superstars inside the campaigns. after 2008, they didn't go back to the campaign. these kids, 28, 29, 30 came out
and started a company and then they got hired by the campaign. so the biggest paid vendor for the obama re-election campaign is a company owned by his former 20-something tech engineers. >> there's so much money that is expected to be spent in this election, are they seeing returns? are we going to get so saturated with ads where you live in a swing state, it's too much to take in? >> i think they go with that theory and going to gwen's introduction in the stats she used there, the $100 million of ads in seven states. they run over 150,000, almost 200,000 ads in these states. we then went to the polls. almost every state is in a statistical tie. >> i'm tired of seeing that one with romney singing. is there a point in which these
don't move because there's so much money on each side? >> yes, the thinking is this year, even though one -- the president says he may be outspent and that's entirely possible, the cycle, that he'll have enough money to get his message out. so it's not like one side can get a clear advantage at the presidential level and will have pretty much a fair argument where everyone can assess the two sides and where it really could make a huge difference is in the house and the senate. we saw signs of this in the last cycle where we had half democratic incumbent with millions in the bank running against republican challengers with a few hundred thousand. they weren't running against that person but karl rove and the american crossroads and the super-pacs. gwen: you'll hear a lot more of romney singing. we will have more on the campaign spending story when the conversation continues online in our "washington week"
webcast extra at pbs.org/washingtonweek. before we go tonight, i want to send a word out to a family of a reporter's reporter, a columnist columnist, bill raspberry of "the washington post." we buried him this week but not without remembering all he gave to journism and his family and friends and colleagues. plus, he always made us smile. thanks for that, bill. keep up with daily developments with me on the pbs news hour and then we'll see you again right here next week on "washington week." good night. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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